With regard to this whole circus over plagiarism allegedly perpetrated by Philippine Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, I have to ask the obvious question: Was anyone harmed? I frame that question with the level of unrelenting ferocity I observe with which people have been attacking Senator Sotto. Even as this issue is “debated” ad nauseum, traders of pirated DVDs hawk their wares in Greenhills, Quiapo, and Binondo in the open with impunity. Ordinary Filipinos — I’m sure even many of the very ones who pump out those tweets of “indignation” — are routine consumers of stolen intellectual property, illegally downloading movies, copying and distributing illicit copies of songs and movies to friends and family, installing unregistered software in their machines, etcetera, etcetera.I’m no fan of Sotto, but I don’t buy this whole “outrage” over the Senator’s alleged plagiarism. It’s stampede mentality at best. Considering there are other banal acts of intellectual property theft and intellectual dishonesty going on around us, the focus on Sotto is disproportionate both in concentration and timing and, as such, is clearly motivated by the pet personal issues (mainly around the Reproductive Health Bill) of some parties involved.
See, just because some issues are fads does not make them more important than those that are for now lower in profile or outside the radars of the chateratti. Remember the name Ronald Llamas? Llamas, adviser on political affairs to the President, early this year was caught on video buying pirated DVDs at a mall. Like plagiarism, there is no existing Philippine law that penalises purchase of stolen intellectual property. More to the point, that “issue” is now languishing in obscurity, just like all the “outrage” over the preventable factors that contribute to flooding in Manila has died down (just as the same outrage did back in 2009 after Ondoy bowed out). But just because there is no longer any high-profile outrage over man-made contributors to flooding — or presidential advisers buying bootleg DVDs — does not make those things less important.
In any case, most ordinary Filipinos won’t be able to grasp intellectual property theft and copyright infringement anyway. Recall the question I posed at the start: Is anyone really harmed by intellectual property theft? To the ordinary citizen of a nation not exactly known for originality, innovation, or bold creativity, copyright infringement does not compute. Ownership of original work quite simply does not make sense to an unoriginal people.
If I were Sotto, I wouldn’t worry. Indeed, the Senator’s biggest mistake was responding to his Twitterati detractors to begin with — not once but twice (or has it been thrice already?). He should have done his homework first. Despite the Philippines being purported to be the “social media capital” of the world, most Filipinos spend their time online watching “scandal” videos, chatting in jejemon, and persuading some middle-aged sucker residing halfway around the planet to send them some “load”. Sotto’s bloc of voters are not the type who’d be seeing content generated by our little niche in the citizen-journalism ecosystem appearing in their news feeds and timelines anytime soon. As Alfred E. Neuman say: What? Me worry?
The Philippines is a country where more abominable acts of impunity routinely go unnoticed, unreported, and un-hyped. These acts of impunity produce real victims that ordinary voters can relate with. As of this writing, for example, none of the owners or managers of Sulpicio Lines has seen any jail time. It is, indeed, lonely at the top, Get Real Post being the last remaining true blogging rock star in our little corner of the Philippine blogosphere. Consider that distinction de facto earned, as we have the only really sensible take on the concept of Pinoy-style impunity (boldface in excerpt below added by author for emphasis)…
When we do a bit of thinking outside the little square framed for lesser minds by our honourable oligarchs in the Philippine Media, we will consider how from 1987 through to 2008, a single shipping company â€” Sulpicio Lines Inc (SLI) â€” was a common denominator underlying the preventable deaths of at least 10,000 people at sea. Letâ€™s say for argumentâ€™s sake, that SLI employs 50 senior management personnel and that every one of them can be deemed accountable for those deaths. Thatâ€™s a victim-to-perpetrator ratio of 200-to-1. It is a ratio that dwarfs Andal Ampatuanâ€™s alleged accountability for the deaths of 57 people.
Look around for a minute and take stock of the Media buzz and ask:
Who is huffing and puffing for the Sulpicio Lines victims today?
Simple answer. Nobody. They’re all busy huffing and puffing about Tito Sotto’s alleged plagiarism.
Tito Sotto’s act of “impunity”? Remember the 10,000-odd victims of the preventable disasters that involved Sulpicio Lines and consider whether or not Sotto’s “outrageous” crime against Sarah Pope (or whatever the heck her name is) is really that important.
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